Love your name

by Robert Genn

July 1, 2008
Dear Rodney,

During the last while there have been a few emails from artists with concerns about their names. Some don't like their names at all, others are worried about the ranking of their names on Google.

Recent research has shed some light on the connection between self-esteem and name. Jochen Gebauer of Cardiff University in Wales has authored a study on the relationship between people's names and their image of themselves. "People with high self-esteem tend to like their names more," he says. It's called the "mere-ownership effect." It means that we tend to like things that are ours. Apparently, people with low self-esteem tend to like and even covet other people's things.  

It follows that artists who like their name tend to like their work. While it's not necessary to be overly gung-ho about your stuff, it helps to feel good about it at least some of the time.

When an artist's name is perceived by the artist to be inappropriate, hard to explain, or ugly, the quality of work may suffer. Healthy artists are comfortable with their names. They enjoy seeing their name on their work, as well as on cheques, incoming and outgoing. They are okay with hearing their name said, both in public and quietly in their ear.

Of concern to many is the commonplace nature of their names. While there are plenty of Smiths who thrive in the arts, lots of Joe Smiths wonder if they would do better with something else. Changing to Joe Limburger Smith would ensure a higher search ranking. Further, the olfactory connection, while cheesy, would certainly make it more memorable. The Internet is stealthily encouraging three name monikers. Distinctive two-namers need not worry.

Women are the most frequent complainers of name. Some women, through divorce, retain the names of a former husband, often for the sake of the kids. Not liking the ex very much, they may feel a tinge of remorse every time they sign his name. Here, a perceived lack of secure identity may influence quality and the imperative to put oneself forward. While there is something to be said for sticking to a name, some women, particularly younger ones, might think about reinventing themselves in a name they can love.   

Best regards,


PS: "If you have high self-esteem, everything is good. You have fewer social problems, you're less aggressive, you feel better about yourself, you have more friends and people like you more." (Jochen Gebauer)

Esoterica: While a state of general well-being is considered by some to be a negative in the production of great art, I disagree. One has to think of deriving and giving the maximum good in every human life in the here and now. Artists give in a unique way--and their better efforts become treasured and move down through the generations. As a believer in social progress, getting all your ducks in a row is part of the process. Stage names and aliases are commonplace in other professions. It's possible you would be better off as someone else.